Mad Men Recap: Move It or Lose It

Mad Men Sterling Cooper Partners Move

So this is how the men and women of Sterling Cooper & Partners are going out: Not with a bang, but with an underhanded, long-in-the-works bit of corporate trickery.

Sadly, the shock that results from Mad Men‘s main firm being absorbed (read: put out of existence) by parent company McCann Erickson does not lead to the Peggy-Stan copy-room shagfest for which I’ve so been longing. But it does make for an interesting moment in which she acknowledges the baby she gave up, so that’s something.

The real question: Haven’t we all been through this before, when McCann Erickson bought Puttnam, Powell and Lowe? Follow-up: What does this week’s development mean for the remaining Mad Men episodes? Because if next week’s major action is watching Meredith spend half an hour carefully boxing up Don’s glassware, I’m not sure I’m there for that.

In the meantime, I’m looking forward to the SC&P yard sale. Dibs on that room-size computer with less power than my iPod and the couch on which Peggy and Pete’s kid was conceived! Read on for the highlights of “Time & Life.”

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HERE’S YOUR HAT, WHAT’S YOUR HURRY? | Early in the hour, Roger receives a letter that enrages him. At first, he thinks that office manager Dawn (oh hi, Dawn!) hasn’t been paying SC&P’s rent, but it turns out that McCann Erickson has terminated the lease… because it’s going to move the firm we know and love into its main building.

Sounds harmless, right? But as Roger and Joan realize when they talk with Ferg, this really means that the larger firm is absorbing (read: dissolving) the smaller one: SC&P is done. (Side note: I loved the sad little hug Joan and Rog shared upon hearing the news.)

Everyone at McCann thinks this the development is great. Everyone at SC&P thinks it signals the end of the world. When the partners gather in Don’s office to process the news, Pete refuses to surrender. “That’s it? Have a drink?!” he fumes. Well, yes, honey. Haven’t you ever seen this show? Joan notes that everyone has a four-year contract with a non-compete clause: Even if the partners don’t want to go to McCann, they can’t work anywhere else for a while. Ted, Roger, Don, Pete and Joan agree to keep the news to themselves for the time being.

So, of course, Pete goes straight to Peggy, spilling the beans with the caveat that he wants her to have an advantage over “the rats who fly off this ship” when the move becomes common knowledge. The tip moves Pegs to make an appointment with a headhunter, who delivers news she doesn’t want to hear: McCann is actually the best place for her; three years there will do wonders for her career and salary.

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GO WEST, NOT-SO-YOUNG MAN | But wait! Don has an idea that just may save SC&P in some fashion, and he has Lou to thank for it. (Yeah, I know. Unlikely.) The older man calls and says he’s moving to Tokyo, because a Japanese animation studio is going to make “Scout’s Honor” into a cartoon. “Well, sayonara, my friend. Enjoy the rest of your miserable life,” Lou damn near giggles into the phone. (Side note: As much as I may have hated Lou, that chuckle after he hangs up was so full of joy, I can’t be mad at it.)

Fact 1: With Lou gone and Ted and Pete back in New York, the firm’s West Coast office is empty. Fact 2: McCann will have to dump a bunch of SC&P’s very profitable accounts solely because they’ll be a conflict with existing McCann accounts (think Sunkist vs. Ocean Spray). So Don proposes starting Sterling Cooper & Partners West, which will allow them to salvage some independence and keep accounts like Burger Chef, Dow and Sunkist… provided those accounts will keep their business at SC&P.

Immediately, Ted declares that — unlike L.L. Cool J — he’s not goin’ back to Cali. (We later find out he and his wife have divorced, she’s still out there, and he’s dating a college girlfriend who lives in New York.) That’s fine, Don says; leaving some staff on the East Coast will make the move even more attractive to McCann Erickson.

Dow, headed by Ken, decides not to make the move. (Shocker.) But Pete manages to get Secor Laxatives on board, and with a compliant Sunkist, Burger Chef and Tinkerbell Cookies, that’s enough for the partners to pitch to the bigwigs at McCann. Even though Don does his genial best, though, it’s too late. The partners will come to McCann, firm head Jim Hobart tells them, and they’ll love working for such a huge, successful agency with gigantic clients like (and this he whispers in a really silly way) “Coca-Cola.”

“Stop struggling,” Hobart says with a smile. “You won.” So why, when the partners are out getting beers afterwards, does it feel like a funeral?

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PEGGY PERUSES THE PAST | Back at SC&P, Peggy’s awkwardness at a child-casting session prompts Stan to tease her that she “hates kids.” She later lets him in on the firm’s impending move, warning him that he can’t even tell his nurse girlfriend Lee. “That won’t be a problem,” he says. Ooh, is Stan single again? (Not even gonna pretend that these two getting together isn’t my only wish for the entire rest of the series.)

During a late-night work session in Stan’s office, Peggy protests that she doesn’t dislike children. He makes a comment about how she couldn’t have achieved the job she has if she had a family at home, and though I believe he means well, it sets Peggy onto a discussion that winds up involving Stan’s mom and ends with Pegs tearily admitting that she’d had a child but given him up for adoption. “I’m here. And he’s with a family, somewhere. I don’t know, but it’s not because I don’t care. I don’t know because you’re not supposed to know, or you can’t go on with your life,” she says, delivering quite a nice bit of writing.

Later, we find out that Peggy is planning to go to McCann, and she’ll bring Stan with her if he wants to go.

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DENIED! | Kudos to whomever cast Alison Brie as Pete’s ex-wife Trudy; she is the only reason I care about his home life at all. She’s in this episode because Tammy didn’t get into a prestigious private school in Greenwich, Conn., and Trudy wants Pete to go talk to the headmaster with her. Turns out, the headmaster hates all Campbells, because his family and the Campbells have a long-held beef. I’m ready to dismiss this whole thing as insane folly, but then the headmaster elaborates that the Campbells killed his ancestors long ago despite having offered the gift of hospitality, and that is some Red Wedding-level stuff right there. Don’t worry; Pete punches him like he always does.

MERCI BEAUCOUP | But back to the beer-swilling SC&P partner pity party. Eventually, it’s just Roger and Don left… and then even Roger has to leave to go meet Marie, Megan’s mom. Don is shocked to hear about that development, but he pulls it together and — after a tipsy Roger kisses him on the cheek and tells him “You are OK,” (aww) — goes looking for Diana the Downer of a Waitress at her sad rooming house. But she’s gone, and the two gay guys now living in her room have no idea where she is.

The next day, after Meredith nearly implodes while asking Don what the heck is going on with the firm, the partners call everyone together to announce the move. As the murmurs turn into angry talk, Roger and Don’s efforts to calm the crowd fail spectacularly. “This is the beginning of something, not the end,” Don promises, but you can barely hear him over the din.

Now it’s your turn. What did you think of the episode? Sound off in the comments!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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30 Comments
  1. Mr. Tran K says:

    Can’t imagine how Aaron Staton’s character is still wearing a eye-patch.

    • TV Gord says:

      His eye is probably permanently disfigured. As we saw a few weeks ago, the eye socket is sewn shut, so he probably doesn’t want others to see that.

  2. Hipper says:

    this should’ve been the premiere of these last 7 episodes, instead of whatever we got.

  3. btgraff says:

    I had always thought that Peggy’s sister took her kid permanently, rather than the kid being adopted out to someone else…

  4. JuliaGal says:

    I was hoping for a Peggy-Stan shagfest. Both deserve some happiness.

  5. Robin says:

    It is difficult to see the AD Agency get acquired, and some will be a casualty of this “swallowing”. I like it when Don, Roger, Peggy and Joan are in charge of their own fates. I think my expectations are too high for the final episodes. I don’t really want to see Don and team fail…
    Don is someone who has reinvented himself and may be going thru another identity crisis…Who is the real Don Draper/Dick Whitman? Is he the “boy wonder /Genius/AD MAN” or a true fraud that has lucked into successful campaigns over the years? He seems to be losing his shine…

  6. anna says:

    Ken’s a jerk. Hope we never see him again. I hope Stan and Peggy start their own agency. Hopefully that waitress is gone for good.

  7. Amy says:

    First what is the deal with diana the downer? I don’t quite understand that!
    Last nights episode its typical lvg out joan cuz shes a woman

  8. Amy says:

    First what is the deal with diana the downer? I don’t quite understand that!
    Last nights episode its typical lvg out joan cuz shes a woman in that era. Peggy & stan hmmmm

  9. Cc says:

    All that was missing was pete jumping Trudy.
    She is gorgeous, I was ready for that scene where they cut that rug up. But nooooo :(

  10. Elly Jackson says:

    This show is really limping towards the finishing line isn’t it? Breaking up the final season of Breaking Bad worked, but for Mad Men it has failed pretty miserably. I have watched since the first episode and I’ll watch until the last, but I’m not expecting as much of the show any more. They seem to be rehashing old story lines. I reckon the Waitress represents death like the homeless woman in SOA, when Don finds her he dies.

    • AnnieM says:

      Either that, or he decides to become somebody else; I swear I remember reading an interview with Matthew Weiner a couple years back that Don would live to the present day, to be an old man, something like that.

      • Nero tTVf says:

        You are correct – I believe the interview was taped sometime between S4 and S5 – I heard the same interview with Matt W. Don is alive and well in 2015- an old man. The question will be what impact did he have on society (and our lives) in continuing the myth-making of the America Dream in the fourty+ years between 1970 and 2015?

        He will be the one to go out to California… the others will stay on the east coast. What Don does when he gets there, that is the question.The final episodes will wrap up the story lines for the others – it is easy to see how the others stay with McCann out of career and financial necessity. Roger perhaps will stay since Marie is on the east coast. But Don? Remember, he’s the one who cannot envision his future – the others can and McCann taped into that info/intel via the ‘Forecast.’ All those big accounts, all that money on the table. Pete, Ted, Joan, Peggy, Stan… they have to stay. What do people ‘value’ and ‘need’ in life. McCann is tapping into that.

        Don responds to none of that – money? Don is not about money. What could McCann really offer Don? More brunettes? Don can get those on his own in California. And will.

  11. ? says:

    Pardon me if I’m not remembering something, but where is Jim Cutler (Harry Hamlin)? Did he leave as part of the McCann buyout package at the end of the first half of the season when Cooper died? I didn’t think that was the case, but maybe I just don’t remember?

  12. Nero tTVf says:

    In last night’s ‘Time and Life’ episode, there is one very impressive shot of the five partners sitting at the McCann conference room table, each side-by-side with the window in the background behind them separating each via a window pane. That shot is very similar to the shot in late S5 when the partners are looking at that new second floor expansion in the Time & Life Bld, and looking out the windows, again, each separated via window pane. A cool shot, and nice book ends to the beginning and ending of SC&P.

    “This is how the world ends, this is how the world ends. Not with a bang, but with a whimper.”

    That’s how all myths and dreams end.

  13. TexMike says:

    I have been so bored with this season. My only hope is that we find out what became of Sal.

    • Robin says:

      Sal walked off to The Village or Central Park for anonymous activity with strangers in the dark. I think he probably continued to pretend his fairy tale life with his wife, until the beginning of the AIDs empidemic in the early eighties. Isn’t it interesting that every single character, from Don to Lane to Roger, etc…is afraid to be who they really are???

  14. Cate says:

    It is impossible to read your editorial content when the screen keeps snapping to video ads that won’t be put on pause. Please stop using these ads. They’re obnoxious and make the TV Line experience all about the ad.

  15. Katelorelai says:

    Kimberly, I think you mean you wanted a Peggy-Stan copy room shagfest and of course we all do!

  16. Nan says:

    Am I the only one who thinks that Christina Hendricks looks like Eve Arden [the Principal in Grease]?

  17. margaret says:

    I think that the murmur and no one paying attention to Roger and Don or any of the board members stems from the fact that at this point in time people are starting to have their own minds and have their own beliefs and feelings I don’t necessarily look to the boss or someone like that as their person to explain it to them they have their own ideas and understand the ramifications of what is soon to come

    • Nero tTVf says:

      Bingo – no one else has come up with this, but you are correct – that is why MW wanted to show that final scene – the SC&P staff walking off in disgust. That never would have happened in 1960 or 1963 back at the old SC office. But, by 1970, people had become more sophisticated, less trusting… a lot (not so good) happened in 1968 and 1969. People by 1970 had become ‘shell-shocked’ by the changing culture around them, and began to distrust authority.

      Don, Roger, etc. have begun to lose control of the ‘soldiers’ – they won’t follow anymore. People always think that the distrust of authority started in 1973-74 during Watergate and the oil crisis, but the seeds of that distrust in authority started back in 1967-1969. We’re seeing that now in 1970 w/Mad Men.

      • DWK says:

        Perfect, and also very true. I loved the scene where the workers get angry and walk down the stairs, leaving management on the upper floor looking after them. It’s the perfect visual metaphor for the coming years (later 1970’s) when the recession and the merger mania of the 1980’s, effectively ended the golden age of the American middle class.

  18. TV Gord says:

    I loved this episode! There was so much great stuff! Peggy’s admission was poignant (though she’s still unable to show any vulnerability at work). I hope they’re heading to the happy Joan endgame that they seem to be. Being absorbed into a bigger company sure resonates today, doesn’t it?

    A friend pointed out that this episode was directed by Jared Harris (ex-Lane). I think he did a wonderful job!

    • Nero tTVf says:

      This^^^. I agree 100%. BTW, (I hope it is okay with TVLine staff if I mention this), there is a nice interview article at ‘THR’ regarding Jared Harris’ directing of this episode. He has some nice insights and ‘behind the scenes’ stories about filming ‘Time & Life’.

      As Lane would say, ‘Jared did a splendid job!!’

    • Ro says:

      Wow… I didn’t realize Jared Harris directed this episode. I do miss Lane.